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THE ten lectures contained in this volume were delivered by me in my capacity of Gifford Lecturer in the University of Edinburgh in November and December 1896. They form the first half of a course on the Science of Religion and treat of the Morphological part of that science. The second series will deal with the Ontological division of the science.

I had hoped to publish these lectures immediately after their delivery and before their appearance in Dutch the language in which they were first written. This unfortunately proved impossible. They have been rendered into English twice. The first translation was made use of in their delivery. The second is the one now issued. It has been made in entire independence of the first and has been carefully revised by myself and others.

The object of the late Lord Gifford in founding Lectureships in the four Scottish Universities was to provide for the teaching of “Natural Theology.” Although this term has now gone somewhat out of fashion the manner in which Lord Gifford proceeds to explain his object makes it clear that by “Natural Theology” he meant what we nowadays call the Science of Religion. He expressly declares that the Lecturers appointed shall be subjected to no test of any kind and shall not be required to take any oath or to make any declaration of belief; that they may be of any denomination or of any religion or of none; provided they be able reverent men true thinkers and earnest inquirers after truth. He further desires the Lecturers to treat their subject “as a strictly natural science the greatest of all possible sciences indeed in one sense the only science—that of Infinite Being—without reference to or reliance upon any supposed exceptional or so-called miraculous revelation.” He afterwards fixes the term of office at two years with re-eligibility for a second and at most for a third term. Re-election however has been exceptional and the only instance of it has been that of Professor Max Müller who held the Glasgow Lectureship for two terms of two years each with high acceptance.
When I was invited to fill this important office some seven years ago I was obliged regretfully to decline as I had then just been appointed Rector of my own University of Leyden. But when the Senate of Edinburgh University was good enough unanimously to appoint me to the Lectureship in 1895 I felt constrained to accept the honour. While I was attracted by the prospect of discussing my favourite study in presence of the British public I was thoroughly aware of the difficulties of my task. It was easy enough to choose my subject and there was much that I wished to say about it; but I should have to say it in a language I had previously used two or three times only in public and I was expected to divide my matter into a fixed number of lectures of equal length and to deliver them before a strange audience composed of many different elements. I have therefore been unable to perform my task to my own entire satisfaction; but the exceedingly cordial reception extended to me and to my work in Edinburgh and the close and indulgent attention paid to my lectures by large audiences throughout the whole course not only afforded me great encouragement in my task but enable me to look forward with somewhat more confidence to its completion in the second half of my proposed course.
I have purposely abstained from burdening the volume with references and footnotes as it is intended to serve as an Introduction to the Science of Religion and not as a handbook of the subject. I need only add that I have printed in full a number of passages of which lack of time prevented the actual delivery.
LEYDEN June 1897.